I apologize in advance for this long post…
Hello, I have recently had some dialog with a few non-Catholic friends, and of course, even though they are great people who are seeking to put Christ as the center of their lives, they are not Catholic and thus do not agree with some Catholic teachings. These friends (for the most part anyway) are not necessarily antipathetic to Catholics in general (meaning they agree on many topics [e.g., abortion, marriage] and they think that Catholics can be saved even if not converting to their beliefs, etc.), but one of the teachings they do not accept, or at least they do not accept in the same way, is the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
All of these friends (who I speak to separately), are of pretty much one of the following backgrounds: a few are Missouri-Synod Lutherans, and one attends a church of Mennonite Brethren (which I am less familiar with). I attempted to answer some questions, but I was unfortunately somewhat ill prepared. I would appreciate any help that you all could offer.
Firstly, I would like to seek further understanding of the LCMS position and maybe gather some way to reinforce the Catholic understanding to my LCMS friends (who coincidentally do not all hold the exact same understanding anyway, but it is similar). In general, they do not adhere strictly to consubstantiation (the term is frowned upon) nor that both the bread and the body are present, etc. Honestly, I think this is because they do not think about it so deeply. They just know that Christ is present. The major difference that I have found though, is that they only believe that Christ is present during Communion, and not even really that, but only present once the host touches the receiver’s tongue. Thus, my first question is: Why do they hold this belief? Where is this understanding supported? Based on my understanding, the early church fathers held the Catholic position (though I have not read the early church fathers). Were there those in the early church that held this understanding instead? Secondly: How would I reinforce the Catholic position? I understand there might be some writings from Justin Martyr and Tertullian, but how much evidence is there that this is what they held?
This leads me to my next friend (Mennonite Brethren). I had never spoken about religion to this gentleman, but it came up the other day and we spent a couple of hours talking (namely I was clearing up misunderstandings that he had about the Catholic faith). He conceded on some subjects, and I hope that I planted a seed and he will do some research on his own. Mostly though, he said that he doesn’t really think about the Catholic Church, and doesn’t think you have to belong to any certain Christian church to have the fullness of Truth. We were discussing many things, and I took a leap and asked about Communion, and explained the Catholic understanding of the Real Presence, in that the hosts truly become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. He kind of got a weird look on his face and said he did not believe this, and that at his church, they only do a communion because it is symbolic and that Christ commanded it. We had previously discussed other things, and he said that he takes a fundamental, literal stance on Sacred Scripture. So this led me to mention multiple Gospel verses, and letters, but he said he always understood the Real Presence to mean that Christ was present in the assembly, not in the Eucharist itself. So I mentioned more Gospel verses and letters, but he said that he was not equipped to refute these things because he would have to read the whole thing in context (we did not have any bibles with us). I also mentioned that it was my understanding that the early church fathers held the understanding of the Real Presence (I really need to read these). He replied, well yes, early Catholic Church fathers would believe this, but what about everyone else? So (I guess somewhat repetitive), my question is: Is there any evidence that early Christians did not hold to the understanding that the bread and wine really become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ? And if not, why do so many people that are very faithful and very intelligent reject something that seems like it has been made so clear?
I hope that was all clear and I appreciate any help that you might be able to provide. Thank you!